WATCH Greek police fire tear gas into metro station amid protests in support of jailed far-left hitman — RT World News



Clashes have erupted between Athens police and protesters supporting a jailed far-left hitman, who was hospitalized after a long hunger strike. Officers deployed irritant gases in an attempt to muscle the mob into a metro station.

Scuffles between dozens of left-wing protesters and law enforcement erupted in central Athens on Friday.

Footage from the scene shows the police and the angry crowd engaging in a shoving match at a metro station entrance. The authorities deployed irritant gases as they tried to push the protesters into the station. The demonstrators, in turn, doused the police with a fire extinguisher.

The country has seen a series of recent protests in support of Dimitris Koufontinas, a convicted hitman of the now-defunct November 17 far-left group, who is serving multiple life sentences for his killings.

Koufontinas, who was found guilty of killing 11 people, demanded a transfer from a high-security prison in Domokos, located in central Greece, to Korydallos prison in Athens, so he could be close to his family. The transfer, however, was rejected, as the facility only houses suspects in pre-trial detention rather than convicted inmates, and the hitman subsequently went on hunger strike.



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Youths hurl FIREBOMBS at riot police in Athens as Greece debates controversial education reforms (VIDEO)


He refused food for some 50 days and his health has greatly deteriorated as a result. The 63-year-old is now in “critical condition” and “borderline comatose,” his relatives have told AFP.

The November 17 terrorist group was active between 1975 and the early 2000s. It committed over 20 high-profile killings, with Turkish diplomats, a British military attache and even a CIA station chief among its victims.

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Farmer protests: India's sedition law used to muffle dissent



In recent years there’s been increasing use of a law which bans speaking out against the government.

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Short-term lender protests credit changes



Australia’s largest short-term lender has launched a nation-wide campaign to have changes proposed under a major overhaul of the National Consumer Credit Protection Act scrapped.

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Why thousands of people across Spain have joined nightly protests against the jailing of a rapper


Unrest broke out in Spain this week following the jailing of rapper Pablo Hasel for glorifying terrorism and insulting royalty in his music and on Twitter.

On Saturday, looting broke out as police and demonstrators in Barcelona clashed for a fifth night. Thousands hit the streets across the country.

Angry demonstrations first erupted on Tuesday after police detained Hasel, 32, and took him to jail to start serving a nine-month sentence in a highly contentious free speech case.

Since then, protesters have turned out every night, clashing with police in disturbances which began in Hasel’s home region of Catalonia, but have since spread to Madrid and beyond.

Pablo Hasel during a press conference in Lleida, Catalonia, Spain, 1 February 2021.

EFE

On Saturday in Barcelona, protesters hurled bottles, cans and firecrackers at police, who charged at them as smoke poured into the air from burning barricades, an AFP correspondent said.

In Madrid, around 400 people gathered under a heavy police presence in the city centre, chanting and clapping.

Earlier, several hundreds had gathered in the southern cities of Malaga, Cordoba and Seville, local media reported, with another 100 protesters gathering in the northern city of Santander and a similar number in Logrono.

Some 2,000 demonstrators gathered on Friday in Barcelona for a protest that deteriorated into violence.

Hooded demonstrators hurled stones, firecrackers and bottles at police and torched barricades made of rubbish bins and restaurant chairs. At least one restaurant was also set alight.

So far, more than 100 people have been arrested in the protests over Hasel, and scores more injured in the clashes – among them, many police officers and a young woman who lost an eye after being hit by a foam round fired by police.

A demonstrator waves an independent flag in front of burning containers during demonstrations on Friday.

A demonstrator waves an independent flag in front of burning containers during demonstrations on Friday.

Sipa USA Thiago Prudncio / SOPA Images/

The clashes have also sparked a political row that has exacerbated a divide within Spain’s left-wing coalition, which groups the Socialists of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and the far-left Podemos.

While the Socialists have firmly opposed the violence, Podemos’ leadership has backed the protesters.

The party emerged from the anti-austerity “Indignados” protest movement that occupied squares across Spain in 2011. Their position is that the Hasel case exposes Spain’s “democratic shortcomings”.

Additional reporting by Reuters.

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Two killed, 20 injured as police fire to break up crowds in Myanmar’s bloodiest day of recent protests


Two people were killed in Myanmar when police fired to disperse protesting opponents of the military coup, emergency workers have said.

Protesters took to the streets in several cities and towns with members of ethnic minorities, poets and transport workers among those demanding an end to military rule and the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and others.

But tension escalated quickly in Mandalay on Saturday (local time), where police and soldiers were confronting striking shipyard workers and other protesters.

Some of the demonstrators fired catapults at police as they played cat and mouse through riverside streets.

Police responded with tear gas and gun fire, though it was initially not clear if they were using live ammunition or rubber bullets.

“Twenty people were injured and two are dead,” said Ko Aung, a leader of the Parahita Darhi volunteer emergency service agency.

One man died from a head wound, media workers and a volunteer doctor said.

The doctor said a second man was shot in the chest and died.

Several other serious injuries were also reported.

At least five people were injured by rubber bullets and had to be carried away in ambulances, according to an Associated Press journalist who witnessed the violence.

An armoured police truck uses a water cannon to disperse a crowd of protesters.
Many countries have urged Myanmar authorities to avoid violence, while the US, Britain, Canada and New Zealand have announced limited sanctions.(AP)

Some 500 police and soldiers descended on the area near Yadanabon dock after dock workers joined the national civil disobedience movement, refusing to work until the military junta that seized power in a Febraury 1 coup reinstates the democratically elected government.

Police were not available for comment.

The demonstrations and a civil disobedience campaign of strikes and other disruptions have shown no sign of dying down.

Opponents of the coup are sceptical of the army’s promise to hold a new election and hand power to the winner.

A young woman protesting died on Friday after being shot in the head last week as police dispersed a crowd in the capital, Naypyitaw, the first death among anti-coup demonstrators.

The army said one policeman died of injuries sustained in a protest.

Crowds march in continued demonstrations across the country

A protester holds an image of a woman and a rose with a sign that reads "We Lost Our People" during a large protest.
Protesters in Myanmar’s two largest cities paid tribute to the young woman who died after being shot by police during a rally against the military takeover.(AP)

On Saturday, young people in the main city of Yangon carried a wreath and laid flowers at a memorial ceremony for the woman, Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing, while a similar ceremony took place in Naypyitaw.

The demonstrators are demanding the restoration of the elected government and the release of Ms Suu Kyi and others.

They have also called for the scrapping of a 2008 constitution that has assured the army a major role in politics since nearly 50 years of direct military rule ended in 2011.

The army seized back power after alleging fraud in November 8 elections that Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy swept, detaining her and others.

The electoral commission had dismissed the fraud complaints.

Nevertheless, the army has said its action is within the constitution and is supported by a majority of the people.

The military has blamed protesters for instigating violence.

Earlier on Saturday, several thousand protesters gathered in the northern town of Myitkyina and confronted lines of police before dispersing.

Crowds also marched again peacefully through the ancient capital of Bagan and in Pathein in the Irrawaddy river delta, pictures on social media showed.

The US, Britain, Canada and New Zealand have announced limited sanctions, with a focus on military leaders.

Many countries have urged authorities to avoid violence.

Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing was already under sanctions from Western countries following the crackdown on the Rohingya. There is little history of Myanmar’s generals, with closer ties to China and to Russia, giving in to Western pressure.

Ms Suu Kyi faces a charge of violating a Natural Disaster Management Law as well as illegally importing six walkie-talkie radios.

Her next court appearance is on March 1.

Myanmar’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said 546 people had been detained, with 46 released, as of Friday.

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A 20-year-old woman shot in the head during Myanmar’s anti-coup protests has died



A young woman who was shot in the head by police during a protest last week against the military’s takeover of power in Myanmar has died, her brother says.

Mya Thwet Thwet Khine was shot during a demonstration in the capital Naypyitaw on 9 February.

The 20-year-old had been on life support at a hospital with what doctors had said was no chance of recovery.

Video of the shooting showed her sheltering from water cannons and suddenly dropping to the ground after a bullet penetrated a motorcycle helmet she had been wearing.

The woman is the first confirmed death among the protesters who have faced off with security forces after a junta took power 1 February, detained Myanmar’s elected leaders and prevented Parliament from convening.

Her brother, Ye Htut Aung, who spoke to The Associated Press from a mortuary, said she died at 11.05am on Friday. A source at Naypyitaw’s 1000-Bed General Hospital, speaking on condition on anonymity because of fear of harassment from the authorities, confirmed the death.

A spokesman for the ruling military at a news conference this week did not deny the woman had been shot by security forces, but said she was one of the crowd that had thrown rocks at police, and the case was under investigation.

There were no independent accounts of her taking part in any violence.

Protesters had already hailed Mya Thwet Thwet Khine as a hero and commemorated her during demonstrations earlier this week.

Since the coup, the US and British governments have imposed sanctions targeting the new military leaders, and they and other governments and the United Nations have called for Aung San Suu Kyi’s administration to be restored.

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Belarus Jails 2 Journalists for Covering Protests


MOSCOW — In a ruling that reflected the broader crackdown on dissent by President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus, a court on Thursday sentenced two young journalists to two years in prison for reporting from a demonstration against his rule.

A district court in the capital, Minsk, ruled that the journalists, Catarina Andreeva, 27, and Darja Chulcova, 23, incited unrest by reporting for the Polish television channel Belsat via a video stream from a protest rally.

The court said that, by doing so, the journalists had attracted more people to the rally, creating more work for law enforcement and obstructing public transport.

The journalists said they were doing their job of informing the public.

“Every day I risked my life and health to do my job,” Ms. Andreeva told the court on Wednesday. In the end, she said, she could take comfort from the knowledge that her “conscience is clean.”

The Thursday sentencing was the latest episode in a campaign to silence all forms of opposition to Mr. Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus for over 26 years.

And after months of sustained repression, Mr. Lukashenko appears confident that he has weathered the greatest threat to his power in decades.

“We have kept our country intact,” Mr. Lukashenko said last week in a speech during a meeting with allies. “For now.”

Speaking for more than four hours in a packed auditorium — with few in the crowd seeming to be wearing masks to guard against the spread of coronavirus — he said “the blitzkrieg” against Belarus, launched by Western states, had failed.

The meeting, which drew more than 2,500 pro-Lukashenko bureaucrats and activists from across the country, was carefully choreographed to assert that the wave of protests was an external attack that was successfully defeated.

Mr. Lukashenko’s iron grip on power seemed to be slipping in August, after a presidential election widely regarded as rigged to ensure his victory.

Demonstrations calling for his ouster drew hundreds of thousands of people, eclipsing government-organized rallies in his defense. At a tractor factory, workers, always regarded as Mr. Lukashenko’s core electorate, booed him.

At the time, Mr. Lukashenko looked increasingly disoriented, seeking help from President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, his authoritarian ally. The Kremlin threw him a lifeline by offering a loan and dispatching a group of propaganda specialists to Belarus.

Backed by Mr. Putin, the Belarusian leader had no need to look for any approval from the West. He was free to go as far as possible to make sure protests were suppressed.

He unleashed a crackdown on the protests with a level of brutality unseen in Europe for decades.

The police used tear gas and rubber bullets against peaceful protests indiscriminately. Hundreds were tortured in police precincts and detention centers. At least four people were killed. Overall, more than 1,800 criminal cases were opened against activists, according to Viasna, a human rights group. More than 33,000 were detained by law enforcement following the presidential election, the group said.

In retrospect, Moscow’s help appeared to be key in allowing Mr. Lukashenko to outlast the biggest wave of protests during his rule, said Yauheni Preiherman, director of the Minsk Dialogue Council on Foreign Relations, a think tank.

After months of determined civic action, the repression took its toll and the protests slowly lost momentum. At the same time, the increasingly emboldened president unleashed the full force of his robust security apparatus to take revenge against a movement that pushed his rule to the brink of collapse.

On Wednesday, a court in Minsk began hearing the case against Viktor Babariko, Mr. Lukashenko’s most popular political opponent, according to recent polls.

Mr. Babariko, who headed a Russian state-owned bank in Minsk, has been regarded as a serious threat to Mr. Lukashenko because of his popularity and because of his connection to Moscow. He was arrested in June on corruption charges and is now facing up to 15 years in prison.

On Tuesday, police officers also raided 90 offices and apartments belonging to the few remaining civil society organizations in Belarus, including Viasna, a prominent human rights group, a nongovernmental union of journalists, and an independent trades union.

Other people were sentenced to administrative arrests for drawing the traditional white and red flag associated with the opposition on walls of their own houses.

Activists, who were collecting money to help protesters pay their fines, were accused of financing unrest. At the beginning of February, the police arrested two members of a prominent Minsk-based NGO helping people with disabilities. They now face criminal charges.

Artyom Shraibman, the founder of Sense-Analytics, a Minsk consulting firm and research group, called ongoing crackdown a “counterrevolution,” saying that Belarus “didn’t see such repressions since the Stalinist times.”

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UN expert warns of violence after troops sent to Myanmar city amid protests – National


The U.N. expert on human rights in Myanmar warned of the prospect for major violence as demonstrators gather again Wednesday to protest the military’s seizure of power.

U.N. rapporteur Tom Andrews said he had received reports of soldiers being transported into Yangon, the biggest city, from outlying regions.

“In the past, such troop movements preceded killings, disappearances, and detentions on a mass scale,” he said in a statement issued by his office in Geneva. “I am terrified that given the confluence of these two developments? – planned mass protests and troops converging – we could be on the precipice of the military committing even greater crimes against the people of Myanmar.”

Read more:
UN warns Myanmar of ‘severe consequences’ over harsh response to protests

More protests were expected Wednesday all over the country despite the possibility of violence by the army and police.

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“Let’s march en masse. Let’s show our force against the coup government that has destroyed the future of youth and our country,” Kyi Toe, a spokesman for the National League for Democracy party of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi, wrote on his Facebook page late Tuesday.

On Monday in Mandalay, the country’s second biggest city, security forces pointed guns at a group of 1,000 demonstrators and attacked them with slingshots and sticks. Local media reported that police also fired rubber bullets into a crowd and that a few people were injured.

The protests are taking place in defiance of an order banning gatherings of five or more people.

Police filed a new charge against Suu Kyi, her lawyer said Tuesday, a move likely to fuel further public anger.

Suu Kyi, who was detained in the Feb. 1 military takeover, already faced a charge of illegally possessing walkie-talkies _ an apparent attempt to provide a legal veneer for her house arrest. The new charge accuses her of breaking a law that has been used to prosecute people who have violated coronavirus restrictions, lawyer Khin Maung Zaw told reporters after meeting with a judge in the capital, Naypyitaw. It carries a maximum punishment of three years in prison.










Protesters face prison time under new law in Myanmar


Protesters face prison time under new law in Myanmar

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued a strong denunciation of the legal manoeuvr against Suu Kyi.

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“New charges against Aung San Suu Kyi fabricated by the Myanmar military are a clear violation of her human rights,” he tweeted. “We stand with the people of Myanmar and will ensure those responsible for this coup are held to account.”

A spokesman for the United Nations said any new charges against Suu Kyi don’t change the world body’s “firm denunciation” of the military overturning the “democratic will of the people” and arresting political leaders, activists and peaceful protesters.

“We have called for charges against her to be dropped, for her to be released,” Stephane Dujarric said.

The coup has brought a shocking halt to Myanmar’s fragile progress toward democracy, most visible in Suu Kyi’s tenure as national leader.

Read more:
Anti-coup protesters in Myanmar keep pressure on junta

For a third night in a row, the military ordered an internet blackout _ almost entirely blocking online access from 1 a.m. to 9 a.m. It has also prepared a draft law that would criminalize many online activities.

While the military did not say why the internet was blocked, there is widespread speculation that the government is installing a firewall system to allow it to monitor or block online activity. Social media users have speculated widely that neighbouring China, with extensive experience in censoring the internet, was giving technical assistance for such a project.

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China has so far not condemned the takeover. Some protesters have accused Beijing _ which has long been Myanmar’s main arms supplier and has major investments in the country _ of propping up the junta.

China’s ambassador said Beijing has friendly relations with both Suu Kyi’s party and the military, according to the text of an interview posted on the embassy’s Facebook page Tuesday. Chen Hai said he wished the two sides could solve their differences through dialogue.

“The current development in Myanmar is absolutely not what China wants to see,” he said.

Chen also denied that China was helping Myanmar to control its internet traffic and that Chinese soldiers were showing up on the Myanmar’s streets.


Click to play video 'Myanmar coup: Biden issues sanctions against Myanmar’s military'







Myanmar coup: Biden issues sanctions against Myanmar’s military


Myanmar coup: Biden issues sanctions against Myanmar’s military

“For the record, these are completely nonsense and even ridiculous accusations,” Chen said.

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The military contends there was fraud in last year’s election, which Suu Kyi’s party won in a landslide, and says it will hold power for a year before holding new elections. The election commission found no evidence to support the claims of fraud.




© 2021 The Canadian Press



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Armoured vehicles deployed to major Myanmar cities as mass protests continue


Security forces in Myanmar opened fire to disperse protesters at a power plant on Sunday and armoured vehicles rolled into major cities as the new army rulers faced a ninth day of anti-coup demonstrations that saw hundreds of thousands on the streets.

As well as mass protests around the country, the military rulers were facing a strike by government workers, part of a civil disobedience movement against the 1 February coup that deposed the civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

Aung San Suu Kyi before the UN’s International Court of Justice in December 2019.

Getty Images

Soldiers were deployed to power plants in the northern state of Kachin, leading to a confrontation with demonstrators, some of whom said they believed the army intended to cut off the electricity.

Footage broadcast live on Facebook showed the security forces fired to disperse protesters outside one plant in Kachin’s state capital Myitkyina, although it was not clear if they were using rubber bullets or live fire.

Two journalists from The 74 Media, which was broadcasting live from the site of the confrontation, were arrested along with three other journalists, the news outlet said in a Facebook post.

As evening fell, armoured vehicles appeared in the commercial capital of Yangon, Myitkyina and Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state, live footage broadcast online by local media showed, the first large-scale rollout of such vehicles across the country since the coup.

The government and army could not be reached for comment.

Western embassies – from the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada and 11 other nations – issued a statement late on Sunday calling on security forces to “refrain from violence against demonstrators and civilians, who are protesting the overthrow of their legitimate government”.

The US embassy in Myanmar earlier urged American citizens to “shelter in place”, citing reports of the military movements in Yangon. It also warned there was a possibility of a telecoms interruptions overnight between 1am and 9am.

In the latest sign of disruption by workers, the Department of Civil Aviation said in a statement many staff had stopped coming to work since 8 February, causing delays to international flights.

It added that on Thursday four air traffic controllers had been detained, and had not been heard from since.

A pilot, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution, said hundreds of staff from the department were striking.

Soldiers were surrounding the international airport in Yangon late on Sunday night, he said.

Protesters hold placards and shout slogans near the City Hall on 13 February, 2021 in Yangon, Myanmar.

Protesters hold placards and shout slogans near the City Hall on 13 February, 2021 in Yangon, Myanmar.

AAP

Trains in parts of the country also stopped running after staff refused to go to work, local media reported, while the military deployed soldiers to power plants where they were confronted by angry crowds.

The junta has ordered civil servants to go back to work, threatening action. The army has been carrying out nightly mass arrests and on Saturday gave itself sweeping powers to detain people and search private property.

But hundreds of railway workers joined demonstrations in Yangon on Sunday, even as police went to their housing compound on the outskirts of the city to order them back to work. The police were forced to leave after angry crowds gathered, according to a live broadcast by Myanmar Now.

Richard Horsey, a Myanmar-based analyst with the International Crisis Group, said the work of many government departments had effectively ground to a halt.

“This has the potential to also affect vital functions – the military can replace engineers and doctors, but not power grid controllers and central bankers,” he said.

Protests across the nation

Hundreds of thousands of people protested across the nation on Sunday.

Engineering students marched through downtown Yangon, the biggest city, wearing white and carrying placards demanding the release of ousted leader Suu Kyi, who has been in detention since the coup and charged with importing walkie-talkies.

A fleet of highway buses rolled slowly through the city with horns blaring, part of the biggest street protests in more than a decade.

A convoy of motorbikes and cars drove through the capital Naypyitaw. In the southeastern coastal town of Dawei, a band played drums as crowds marched under the hot sun.

In Waimaw, in Kachin state, crowds carried flags and sang revolutionary songs.

Suu Kyi’s detention is due to expire on Monday.

Her lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw, could not be reached for comment on what was set to happen.

More than 384 people have been detained since the coup, the monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said, in a wave of mostly nightly arrests.

Late on Saturday, the army reinstated a law requiring people to report overnight visitors to their homes, allowed security forces to detain suspects and search private property without court approval, and ordered the arrest of well-known backers of mass protests.

Fearing arrest raids as well as common crime, residents banded together late on Saturday to patrol streets in Yangon and the country’s second-largest city Mandalay.

Concerns about crime rose after the junta announced on Friday that it would free 23,000 prisoners and said the move was consistent with “establishing a new democratic state with peace, development and discipline”.



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Myanmar coup: Military warns protesters not to destroy democracy as protests grow


In a statement on the government-run MRTV channel, the military warned that “democracy can be destroyed” without discipline, and that people who “harm the state’s stability, public safety and the rule of law” could face legal action.

The warning came as two people were seriously injured in the capital Naypyidaw on Tuesday after police officers allegedly shot at protesters, according to the political party of deposed leader Aung San Su Kyi.

“A young man sustained a gunshot wound to the chest and another woman… was hit in the head by a bullet that pierced a motorcycle helmet,” National League for Democracy (NLD) Party spokesperson Kyi Toe said in a Facebook post on Tuesday afternoon.

Kyi Toe said that a doctor had confirmed the female victim would was currently in critical condition and would need to be placed on a ventilator.

“The doctor said the wound was from a real bullet, not a rubber bullet,” Kyi Toe added.

The police and military in Myanmar have not issued any statements regarding the protests in the country.

On Tuesday, the government imposed new restrictions on public gatherings and instituted a curfew for major towns and cities across the country, including the capital, Naypyidaw, and largest city, Yangon, where large protests are ongoing.

According to a notice published by state-owned newspaper The Global New Light of Myanmar, people are prohibited from gathering in groups of more than five, restricted from joining protest marches on foot or by car, and are not allowed to make political speeches in public areas.

A curfew will be in place from 8 p.m. until 4 a.m. in most major towns and cities. While the notice said it came into force on February 8, it did not say when restrictions would lift.

At least 27 people were arrested during protests in Mandalay, the country’s second-largest city, Reuters reported Tuesday. The report said that two local media organizations confirmed the arrests, which included a journalist for the Democratic Voice of Burma, who said they were detained after filming police violence against protesters.

Tens of thousands of people have taken part in protests against the February 1 coup, despite a long history of brutal crackdowns by the military and threats to use live ammunition against demonstrators.

Those arrested could face prosecution under Section 144 of the Criminal Code for “unlawful assembly.” Section 144 has been used in the past as a way to stop lawful protests and to justify violent crackdowns on mass demonstrations.

For a fourth straight day Tuesday, thousands of people gathered in Naypyidaw against the military takeover and called for the release of detained civilian leader Suu Kyi and other elected lawmakers.

Riot police used water cannon against protesters who had assembled near a barricade on a main road in the capital. The demonstrators could be heard chanting “people’s police.” Police warned on loudspeakers that force could be used if the protesters did not leave the area. Police later fired warning shots into the air to disperse the crowd, according to Reuters.

It was the second day that police had used water cannon against protesters in Naypyidaw. On Monday, protesters chanted anti-coup slogans and demanded power be handed back to elected leaders. Demonstrators dispersed after police told them they would fire live ammunition if they crossed a police line on one of the city’s main roads.

A police vehicle fires water cannon in an attempt to disperse protesters during a demonstration against the military coup in Naypyidaw on February 8, 2021
In Yangon earlier this week, protesters marched toward Sule Pagoda in the former capital’s downtown chanting and holding up the anti-government three-finger salute from the “Hunger Games” movie franchise that became a popular protest sign during the 2014 coup in neighboring Thailand. Sule Pagoda was at the center of anti-government demonstrations that were violently suppressed by the military in 1988 and 2007.

On live feeds posted on social media, protesters could be heard shouting “the people stand together against the dictator’s government” and held banners with portraits of Suu Kyi’s face.

Members of the Student Union led the first wave of protesters, with teachers and engineers joining the Yangon crowd. Saffron-clad monks could be seen supporting the crowd standing outside temples, raising the three-finger salute, and waving.

“We are not going to allow this military dictatorship to pass on to our next generation. We will continue our protest until this dictatorship fails,” Yangon resident Soe Maung Maung said.

The US State Department said that it was “very concerned” about military-imposed restrictions on public gatherings and offered support for the country’s peaceful protests.

“We stand with the people who support their right to assemble peacefully, including to protest peacefully in support of the democratically elected governments, and the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek to receive to impart information both online and offline,” said spokesman Ned Price.

Protesters march through a street on February 8, 2021 in Yangon, Myanmar.
United Nations spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said that measures imposed by Myanmar’s military rulers, such as rolling internet blackouts, are “concerning” and limit abilities of citizens to speak up. The UN Human Rights Council will hold a special session on Myanmar on Friday.
Protesters have been contending with widespread internet and communications restrictions since last week’s coup with mobile data networks and social media sites Facebook, Twitter and Instagram intermittently blocked.

In his first public televised address since seizing power, Gen. Min Aung Hlaing on Monday told citizens to prioritize “facts” not “feelings,” pledged to hold “free and fair” elections and hand over power to the winner.

Min Aung Hlaing justified his army’s seizure of power by claiming Myanmar’s electoral commission used the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to not allow fair campaigning, and said “no organization is above national interest.”

He did not say when elections would be held but repeated claims the November 2020 poll — in which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy Party (NLD) won an overwhelming victory — was fraudulent. The state of emergency, imposed when Min Aung Hlaing seized power, is in place for one year.

The election commission has denied the claims, saying any irregularities would not have been enough to change the overall result.

In his address, Min Aung Hlaing said that a new election commission had been formed and it is inspecting the voting lists.

Protesters gather in Yangon to demonstrate against the February 1 military coup.

Analysts have said the military’s justification of its takeover does not stand up because the seizure of power was illegal, and in doing so the military violated its own constitution that it drafted in 2008.

“The military claims that its actions are according to the constitution. But this is a coup and the military have bent the rules to suit their interests. It is hard now for anyone to take the military-drafted 2008 constitution seriously,” said Melissa Crouch, law professor at University of New South Wales, Australia and author of “The Constitution of Myanmar.”

Civilian leader Suu Kyi has been held incommunicado since she was detained hours before the military took control. She is under house arrest, charged with breaching the import-export law, while ousted President Win Myint is accused of violating the natural disaster management law — charges that have been described as “trumped up.”

Myanmar human rights organization, Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) has documented at least 133 government officials and legislators, and 14 activists detained since the coup.

“There is reasonable concern that the military junta will transform these peaceful demonstrations into a riot and take advantage of the instability,” AAPP joint-secretary Bo Kyo said.

“Whenever state institutions are unstable it is the most marginalized sections of society who suffer, the military has form in finding blame in someone or other group. This must not be allowed to happen. The peaceful march towards democracy must succeed.”

CNN’s Pauline Lockwood, Radina Gigova and Richard Roth contributed reporting.

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